Everglades National Park (NP #9), Florida

The Florida State Parks that I’ve been to have been great.

 

They are well built with nice restrooms and water spigots. St. Joe’s Peninsula and Collier Seminole both have common rooms for people to socialize and have events within, and the facilities are well maintained. It’s simple to book sites through the Recreation.gov website, but it’s been tough to get sites with late notice. Most campgrounds are booked solid months in advance. I just got lucky with a cancelation at Collier Seminole.

 

The Florida State Parks’ motto is “Americas best state parks” – a bold claim, but they do make a good argument.

 

I drove South on highway 41 (effectively East) through Big Cypress National Preserve (which has a great visitor center complete with a boardwalk above sunbathing alligators) to get to Everglades National Park (map / wiki).

 

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Big Cypress National Preserve

 

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Also Big Cypress National Preserve

 

At the recommendation of a guy I met in Collier Seminole State Park, I went directly to the Shark Valley Visitor Center. I still don’t get the name ‘Shark Valley’ – there were no sharks and it wasn’t in a valley. Maybe some sort of inside joke.

 

A 15 mile bike/tram path loops south further into the Everglades wilderness.

 

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Note the alligator belly slide highway to the left of the asphalt path.

 

Every 50 yards there were concrete tunnels that allowed the water to pass beneath to road. The gators were happy to use these low spots as hangouts and every third drain was occupied. I took the loop out to the observation tower at mile marker eight, and stopped for some food and pictures.

 

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Observation Tower

 

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Facing back North

 

There was a gator half flopped out on the path leading to the tower. He gave everyone, including myself, an uneasy feeling as we skirted around him.

 

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It was one of those situations that appears absurd, but the people in charge (park guides) reassure you that “oh no, this is standard. No issue here. Carry on.”

 

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Naturally I had to take advantage of this opportunity.

 

The view was great and the wild life super dense. Fish, turtles, lizards, and birds. Especially the birds. They were super active and accustomed to tourists walking right next to them.

 

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Side quest.

 

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Lizard

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